Welcoming a New Year: Carioca Style

New Year’s is a pinnacle party every single December.  After a luxurious few days of nothing over Christmas, people get ready to welcome a new year, and for some, they take it with open arms, labelling it as a new start.  This isn’t to say that everybody has New Year’s resolutions they’ll give up on halfway through February; they really believe that this is their chance to just start fresh, with a new day dawning in a completely different time. After the strange year many people have had, people are probably wanting to usher in 2017 more than any year of this decade.

When I was applying for university, as well as wanting to just go to Brazil, I had always mused about spending New Year’s Eve on Copacabana. Normally I’ve had quieter nights with family, which have been a lovely, peaceful way to usher in the New Year, but the lingering excitement in the back of my mind when I found out I would be able to go to Copa was fighting to emerge, especially after the confirmation that I wouldn’t be leaving until after January started.

A few days before, two friends of mine and I went out to shop for an outfit.  Now, friends, here is the part about New Year’s Eve in Brazil that’s a little bit different to our British tradition of Auld Lang Syne. Revéillon is a very special time spiritually for Brazilians; when they dress for the occasion, each colour has a different meaning.  The most important, and the most common that can be seen on the Rio beaches on the night, is white – which means peace and renewal – of course, a perfect symbol for ringing in a new year. Other colours have other meanings, consequentially: yellow is for wealth, pink is for love, blue is for tranquility, and of course, the list goes on.  Not only do they don white for the occasion, but there are also 100s of street sellers offering different coloured flowers, with the same meaning, to throw into the sea as an offering.  So, I bought myself a pair of white shorts and a lovely and light white top, and we set plans to meet on Copacabana at 11.  The metro, surprisingly, was running smoothly with a special operating timeframe, and after a couple of hours at a friend’s party in Leblon, we made our way down on it to Copa for the main event.

The streets were flooded with people – the mood was mostly joy, and it almost seemed that there was a sense of relief, too.  Brazil had not been having its best year; impeachment, corruption and gang violence were popping up in the news increasingly frequently during my stay there, and it was clear that people just wanted to look to the future.  Then again, don’t we all?

We found our other friends, and walked down with the flow of the crowd towards the beach itself. On our way, we all picked up some flowers to throw into the sea.  I went with white (peace), yellow (money) and pink (love) – I was feeling somewhat superstitious that night, and considering I had an incredible 6 months ahead, I thought I would give it a nudge in the right direction with some offerings.  We managed to make it all the way to the shoreline, the wet sand between our toes and the waves lapping over our feet – by the time we’d arrived, we only had ten minutes before 2017, and it was rather the manic feeling amongst us.

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New Year on Copa: A memory never forgotten

It was the first year ever that I didn’t end up doing the countdown.  Normally, sat by a television, it’s easy to follow from 10 down to 1, but on a beach, catching up with friends and bouncing with excitement, it’s easily missable.  Suddenly, the fireworks on the horizon roared to life, creating a deafening sound across the entire beach.  It didn’t sink in for a good few seconds that actually, it was really 2017 now – I had officially conquered my dream of spending New Year on Copacabana.  We threw our flowers into the sea, and hugged and cheered, and after a while we took a stroll down the beach, buying a bottle of cheap champagne to share and buying ourselves churros at 3am.  Walking through the bustling Avenida Atlantica without a care was really, one of the best ways I could have spent the first few hours of 2017.

After a tame few days of lazy coffees and counting down the hours til my parents arrived, I finally moved my luggage to Botafogo and walked up in the searing heat to Rio Sul, the shopping centre where the airport bus would stop.  Don’t mistake it – especially after the months I have spent abroad, I have become rather self-sufficient and homesickness is not something I deal with much anymore.  However, it was very good to know I would see my parents, and wonderful to remember they would able to enjoy this fabulous continent.  It was a lovely reunion, mixed with carrying more luggage than 2 people should really have, but I suppose a month an ocean away from home warrants quite a few supplies.

The next day, after they had recovered from their journey, we made our way to Christ the Redeemer; although my mother and I had already seen it, the day had been dull and we couldn’t allow my father to miss it.  So, after a a couple of hours exploring Lapa and the Selaron steps, we took the train up to the top of the Corcovado hill.

Despite my having been up there once, not much can prepare you for such a wonderful panoramic view.  Additionally, it was a strange feeling to come back at look on it with different eyes than I had before; I had changed somewhat, and I had fallen in love with the Cidade Maravilhosa.

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Never trust a tourist to take your picture  – they may miss the most important part…

Our next adventure was to the Tijuca National Park, one of the biggest manmade forests near a city in the world.  The lush greenery and beautiful waterfalls next to the bustling metropolis is a strange sort of thing, but nonetheless beautiful.  My mother and I followed our hiking day with a trip to Barra Beach, which is, in my humble opinion, one of the best in Rio.

Our final part was a trip up to the Sugarloaf mountain.  If there is one place for a view of the whole bay, and the city, it’s this beautiful natural monument in the heart of Urca.  Seeing this for a second time, like Christ, was just incredible – especially considering it would be my last day in Rio.  Saying goodbye that way was unbelievable; even if it took us a while to get up there – the storm that roared over the mountain of Urca before we could even arrive up to the Sugarloaf hill.

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Sugarloaf Mountain: Bittersweet goodbye

The next day, we left the Cidade Maravilhosa, and the Lençois were waiting for us in the North.

Stay tuned!

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